John Baron MP has welcomed news today that plans for Titan prisons holding up to 2,500 offenders have been scrapped. Concerns had been raised about the size of the new jails impacting on rehabilitation outcomes. It had been thought that one Titan prison had been earmarked for the Thames Gateway area, leading John to make a formal Freedom of Information Act Request for a list of possible locations after the Government refused to rule out Basildon as a possible site. Today’s announcement comes as the deadline expires for the Ministry of Justice to make the information available to John, after the Information Commissioner ordered publication. The list of sites, now finally published, confirms that a site in Wickford was under consideration.
I am pleased the Government has finally woken up to the fact that Titan prisons are not the way to go. We do urgently need more prison places to tackle overcrowding, but all the evidence suggests that smaller jails provide better rehabilitation outcomes.We don't have that much land in Basildon District that is suitable for development and taking what little we have up with a prison would have been very damaging for the District. Prisions are very necessary, but they have to be in the right place. That means where they don't crowd out homes and jobs and so wreck opportunities for local people.
There was a real danger that Ministers were trying to sneak a Titan prison in locally, possibly in Wickford, without consulting local people. My Freedom of Information Act request revealed the Government wanted to buy the land for sites before informing residents.
It is a shame the Government were forced to reveal this information only as a result of my Freedom of Information Act request: so much for open and transparent Government.
I am grateful to the Information Commissioner for highlighting the Government’s poor handling of this request. It twice failed to respond within the time allowed by law and failed to draw attention to environmental aspects of the plans.